They tell you to open with a joke, and that’s what Premier Doug Ford did as one of the first speakers at this year’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa on Monday. Ford made light of his viral encounter with a bee at a media availability on Friday, and then dug into substance by assuring Ontario’s municipal leaders that the challenges they’re facing are manageable.
“The only way we will protect the strength of our economy is by working together, working together to build an economy with better jobs and bigger paychecks, to build roads, highways and public transit that will keep Ontario moving, to build a workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow, to build more homes people can afford in communities with good schools, hospitals, and long term care homes,” Ford said.
He called that “our government’s plan” and noted pan-government success at reviving the Ontario auto sector, improving investment in “green” steel, and developing the Ring of Fire with the support and input from northern Indigenous communities. Part of that is building all season roads in the northern parts of Ontario, but they weren’t the only roads Ford mentioned in his speech.
“We’re expanding Highway #417 here in Ottawa, we’re building the Garden City Skyway Bridge expansion over the Welland Canal to serve the Niagara region, we’re expanding Highway #7 for drivers in Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph, and we’re building Highway #413,” Ford said, though it should be noted that some of those projects, including Highway #7, did not have start dates in the recently re-tabled 2022 budget.
Much of these announcements got applause, but the mention of the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act did not. Ford touted the legislation announced last week as one of the “tools” being employed by the Ontario government to accomplish what they think is the most essential solution to deal with the province’s housing crisis.
“Our government understands that the real solution to housing crisis is the increased supply – full stop – and together we can get more shovels in the ground with an all hands on deck effort from all levels of government to build more attainable homes,” Ford explained. “In the coming months, we’ll have more information on how those these tools will be expanded to other municipalities. So more municipal leaders like yourselves can help build Ontario.”
Ford also addressed healthcare concerns saying that the government is making the “largest health infrastructure investment in the province’s history” and addressing, what he calls, “decades of underfunding and neglect.” Ford explained that the government was in the process of hiring thousands of new healthcare workers, expanding access to medical schools, and accelerating the certification of foreign-trained health professionals. He also promised more news in the future.
“Since day one on the job, Minister Jones has been actively engaging with our frontline partners to identify concrete solutions. I know she’ll have more to say on Wednesday, because we’ll always be there to support our healthcare system,” Ford added.
You can see the full speech from Ford below.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Health Minister Sylvia Jones will also be address AMO, Clark will speak on Tuesday at 3:10 pm, and Jones on Wednesday at 11:15 am. Guelph MPP and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner will address the conference Tuesday at 9:15 am.